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Originally published Thursday, March 27, 2014 at 12:51 PM

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‘The Lunchbox’: A flavorful drama, set in Mumbai

A three-star review of “The Lunchbox,” which stars the mesmerizing Irrfan Khan as a widower who strikes up a relationship of sorts with a homemaker whose marriage is fading.


Seattle Times movie critic

Movie Review 3 stars

‘The Lunchbox,’ with Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Denzil Smith, Bharati Achrekar. Written and directed by Ritesh Batra. 104 minutes. Rated PG-13 for thematic material and smoking. In Hindi with English subtitles. Harvard Exit.

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A gentle tale of two strangers who become something more, “The Lunchbox” takes place in contemporary Mumbai, a city whose constant noise, crowds and colors emphasize the miracle of one person ever finding another. Ila (the beautiful Nimrat Kaur) is a homemaker who cooks a hot lunch for her distant, neglectful husband every day, brought to him at the office by the city’s busy lunch-delivery service. But the famously efficient couriers make a rare mistake — and Ila’s tasty lunch gets sent to a lonely widower and near-retiree, Saajan (Irrfan Khan).

Soon, that lunchbox becomes itself a courier, transporting notes between Ila and Saajan and their very different worlds: Ila’s cramped kitchen, where an upstairs neighbor (“Auntie”) shouts cooking suggestions down the fire escape; Saajan’s crowded office, free of computers but piled high with worn-looking ledgers and files. At home, Saajan eats unappetizing-looking food from plastic containers, and gazes wistfully at the family next door. “I don’t know when I became old,” he ponders, in a note; Ila, watching her marriage fade away, writes “What do we live for?”

It’s a slight hook to hang a movie on — this feels like a short story, not a novel — but “The Lunchbox” is nonetheless a pleasure, from the fascinating intricacies of Mumbai-style interlocking lunch containers to the quietly masterful performance of Khan. A star both in his native India and abroad (U.S. audiences recently saw him in “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “Life of Pi”), Khan is one of those rare actors who lets us see him thinking and changing, without a word.

“The Lunchbox” ends on a pleasantly ambiguous note, and a wise reminder: “Sometimes, the wrong train will get you to the right station.”

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com



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